You would be aware that late in 2021 the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) undertook a considered consultation and communication process with WA’s commercial fishing sector, regarding COVID 19 access fee relief arrangements.
The process sought to engage with industry commenting on the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) assessment on the impacts of the pandemic and comparisons of Gross Value Production (GVP) figures of relevant fisheries. Managed fishery contributions in the processes for fee relief measures varied.
Based on all industry feedback, information and documentation received, WAFIC made many strong representations to government seeking their support to provide all licence holders with a full waiver of deferred access fees in each Managed Fishery.
Unfortunately, DPIRD has advised WAFIC that, consistent with normal fee relief practice, all deferred access fees from COVID 19 fee relief measures are to be repaid, over a prescribed period, in full.
This is not the result that any of us wanted. The Department’s advice also considered fee relief within the following context:
An access fee is payment for access to a community resource and is not insurance against business risks such as market failures, fluctuations in commodity prices or normal fluctuations in availability of fish stocks
Fee relief was instituted in good faith to assist industry with assumed negative impacts on productivity and cash flow.
Based on available information, there were very few negative impacts on GVP during COVID. The few negative impacts can be attributed to broader market failures or sustainability issues.
The access fee model provides future fee relief automatically as any downturn in fishery production results in lower fees in future years.
The need for consistency and equity in the application for fee relief against all Managed Fisheries.
WAFIC made repeated representations for more than 18 months and ensured that all managed fishery cases as received, were clearly heard and considered. DPIRD is currently progressing the access fees for 2022/23 and in due course will provide information on fees plus repayment matters.
Please note: As is the case in any licensing period, additional fee relief (in the form of a fee deferral) can be sought by a fishery that proves it is experiencing financial hardship across the fishery.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Laura Orme, Industry Development Manager at WAFIC at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 9432 7712.
Although the desired outcome sought did not come to fruition and it’s disappointing that government could not support industry on this occasion, all managed fishery licence holders in WA that participated in the process are to be thanked for uniting and taking a stand on this important issue.
If you have not received your WAFIC communique as yet or, if we may be of assistance in this or any other matter, please email us at: email@example.com .